David Cameron today issued his strongest warning yet to Bashar al-Assad, warning it was “time for him to go” - as the Syrian President disappeared from view.
David Cameron today issued his strongest warning yet to Bashar al-Assad, warning it was “time for him to go” – as the Syrian President disappeared from view.
The prime minister told journalists in Kabul:
“I would have a very clear message for President Assad, which is, it is time for him to go, it is time for transition in this regime.
“Clearly Britain doesn’t support violence on either side. But if there isn’t transition, it’s quite clear there is going to be civil war. That is the clear fact I think that we can all see on the ground.
“Now the regime has done some truly dreadful things to its own people, and I don’t think any regime that carries out acts as they have against their own citizens, and continue to do so, by the way, should survive. I think that regime should go.
“So the message to President Assad is it is time for transition, it is time for you to go.”
Looking ahead, he added:
“The message to President Putin, who I discussed this with at the G8 in Mexico, and the message to all those on the UN security council: it is time for the UN security council to pass clear and tough messages about sanctions – I believe under Chapter Seven of the UN – and to be unambiguous in this.
“Now obviously we are a UN Security Council with permanent members and permanent members that have vetoes. We can’t pass these things without everybody stepping up to the plate and taking the right action, but I would appeal to those who, in the past, have held out against tough action against Syria: what more evidence do we need about a regime that had brutalised its own people?
“And, as I say, the alternative to political transition at the top of Syria is revolution from the bottom in Syria. And I think it is in everybody’s interests – the Syrian people, the region, the wider world, the fight against terrorism – it is in everybody’s interest that that transition takes place quickly, and that political transition.
“The sooner that happens, the sooner the people of Syria can be freed from the tyranny under which they are currently suffering.”
He was speaking after the assassinations yesterday of leading regime figures and Assad loyalists General Daoud Rajha, the defence minister, General Hassan Turkmani, assistant to the vice-president and head of the crisis cell, and Assef Shawkat, Assad’s brother-in-law – a man referred to by some Syrians as their “second president”.
The opposition describe the latest developments as “the beginning of the end” of the Assad family’s 42-year reign of terror with US officials working on contingency plans for a collapse of the Syrian government, focusing on the chemical weapons Syria is believed to possess – WMDs an increasingly desparate, end-is-nigh Assad may unleash on opposition forces and civilians.
Assad himself “remains out of view”, fearful of more attacks closer to home – attacks potentially carried out with the complicity of those close to him, as the International Herald Tribune notes:
The bombing called into question the ability of a government that depends on an insular group of loyalists to function effectively as it battles a strengthening opposition.
Little has been heard about Mr. Assad’s whereabouts since the attack but on Thursday Reuters quoted unidentified opposition officials and diplomats as saying he had left the capital for the coastal city of Latakia in the heartland of his minority Alawite sect to direct the government’s response to the attack.
It was not clear whether Mr. Assad had fled the capital, or when he arrived in Latakia.
Wednesday’s strike dealt a potent blow to the government, as much for where it took place as for the individuals who were targeted: the very cabinet ministers and intelligence chiefs who have coordinated the government’s iron-fisted approach to the uprising. The defense minister and the president’s brother-in-law were both killed, and others were seriously wounded.
The attack on the leadership’s inner sanctum, even as fighting raged in sections of the city, suggested that the uprising had reached a decisive moment in the overall struggle for Syria. The battle for the capital, the center of Assad family power, appears to have begun.
Though there was no indication he was wounded, Mr. Assad remained out of public view on Wednesday and Thursday – unusual but not unprecedented in a secretive country where the government has long tried to present an image of quiet control…
The idea that a poorly organized, lightly armed opposition force could somehow get so close to the seat of power raised questions about the viability of a once unassailable police state. The Assad family has for decades relied on overlapping security forces and secret police to preserve its lock on power. At best, for Mr. Assad, the system failed.
At worst, for Mr. Assad, defectors or turncoats helped carry out an inside operation.
Paranoid, under fire, in hiding and losing it – like many a tyrant before him, it seems the end is indeed near for the murderous rule of Bashar al-Assad.